Young man, 23, stabbed to death after telling stranger he didn’t have lighter

A young man was stabbed to death just moments after he told a stranger he didn't have a lighter during his walk home with friends after a night out.

Jacob Billington, from Crosby in Liverpool, was just 23 years old when he was approached by Zephaniah McLeod while he was visiting friends in Birmingham for the weekend, to ask if he had a lighter.

Speaking to ITV News, the victim's friend, Michael Callaghan, 24, revealed his memory of the moments before the random attack took place, reports the Liverpool Echo.

Mr Callaghan was also stabbed by McLeod and spent 187 days in hospital recovering from his injuries.

Michael and Jacob, both from Liverpool, and a group of friends were on their way back to a hotel in the early hours of 6 September last year when McLeod approached the group.

Michael, 24, said: "This man McLeod came up to me and Jacob and asked us if we had a lighter, and we both said, 'no sorry mate'.

"My memory then is that I heard a scream, which must have been Jacob, and then I put my hand to my neck and I could feel the wound.

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"I kind of followed Jacob to where he collapsed."

Michael fell into the arms of another friend, who was able to stem the bleeding and saved his life as a result.

But the knife had severed his carotid artery, jugular vein and vagus nerve.

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Michael suffered a stoke while in hospital and surgeons had to perform a craniectomy, an operation which removes part of the skull.

He was then put in an induced coma for three weeks.

His left arm is now paralysed from the attack, and he struggles to talk because of the damage done to his vocal chords. He is awaiting an operation to replace the missing part of his skull.

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"Obviously I’ve had a lot of injuries, but in time my skull will be fixed, my arm will come back and my voice will be fixed. I’ll recover, but we can’t get Jacob back," Michael said.

Michael and Jacob had been friends for years throughout their time together at Great Crosby Primary School and Sacred Heart Catholic College.

They even attended university together in Sheffield and formed a band, The Vedetts, with other friends.

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Michael was the lead singer and guitarist, and Jacob was the drummer.

When he died, Jacob had been working at Sheffield Hallam University.

Michael, an engineering graduate, had recently started a job with the NHS on Merseyside.

Last month, Zephaniah McLeod, 27, appeared in court.

He pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Jacob Billington, 23.

He also admitted to several linked charges in connection with seven others injured during the same incident.

He will be sentenced in September.

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